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09 February 2009

Backstory: The Winter Antiques Show

The Winter Antiques Show is America's most prestigious, pedigreed, patinated fair. The waiting list to become an exhibitor is long, and once admitted, dealers hoard treasures all year long to unveil opening night.

But with so many delights competing for the eye, how to make sure that your booth will stand out? Unless you're the Antiques Roadshow blond dynamo Leigh Keno who is an energy force unto himself, your secret weapon may well be interior designer, architecture historian and preservationist Ralph Harvard.

For the past several years, Harvard has been designing jaw-dropping booths to showcase the equally breathtaking wares of miniature specialist Elle Shushan and American Decorative Arts dealer Sumpter Priddy III. But don't take my word for it - the proof is in the pudding:

Every year Elle chooses an inspiration and Ralph runs with it. This year (above) was Josephine's Malmaison. 2008, seen at very top, was Palladian polymath William Kent's 1730s folly for Queen Caroline.

Elle's favorite was the 2007 booth. In homage to her hometown New Orleans which had just been besieged by hurricane Katrina, Elle chose the mid-19th century Gallier House, located in the historic French Quarter. I believe some lucky girl received the booth after the show's end as a playhouse!



Ralph created intimate, sheltered spaces which were conducive to focusing on and appreciating the miniatures. For University of Virginia school chum Sumpter Priddy, a different approach was warranted.

This year's booth

By attending to every surface, Ralph evokes the grandeur of an 18th century drawing room, which was the original setting for many of the objects on display in the stand. As you can see in the pictures below, the architecture of the booth stays the same, but it is transformed every year by changing the color scheme. Gallery Associate Laura L. Libert says they tried the patterned floor and moldings for the first time in 2007 and received so many raves, they've kept it ever since.

Only 11 months and two weeks until next year's show, but who's counting!


2008 - the vibrant grass green color scheme was taken from Blandfield Plantation seen below:


Sumpter's 2007 booth - a dramatic stunner. The dark walls create a jewel box effect, while the geometric floor makes it pop.


Top Photo Hiroko Misuike for the New York Times, #2 from Habitually Chic, #3 & #4 courtesy Antiques and the Arts, #5, #6, and #8 courtesy Sumpter Priddy III, and #7 courtesy Blandfield Plantation

7 comments:

Janet said...

Another great post! What fun to see the booth transformations over the years. I also really love hearing about the various sources of inspiration. As a side note...Gallier House is one of my favorites.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Janet - Can you believe I have never been to New Orleans? I will definitely put Gallier House at the top of my list.... EEE

Janet said...

Get thee to NOLA! One of my best friends lives down there, so luckily I get to go fairly often. Mmmm...girls' weekend?

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Much better than a nunnery! Lets do it, JCB!

The Peak of Chic said...

I think 2007 was tops in terms of the booths. I remember seeing photos of Elle's booth from that year, and of course was completely taken with it.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Jennifer, Elle's 2007 stand was just magical! I think it was Ralph Harvard's daughter who got to take it home... EEE

pve design said...

My mother used to pry me away from a girl friend's home, as we played dolls for hours. She had one of those amazing doll homes kitted out with miniature furniture. Her bedroom even had a canopied bed.
I will never forget that room.
Attending the Winter Antique show is like that for me.
One doll house room after the other, playing and running from room to room as if I lived there.